Ingrid Jendrzejewski (Independent Scholar)

Posted on Friday, March 5th, 2010

‘“No True Science Without Imagination”: Representations of Science and the Scientist in turn-of-the-20th-century dramatisations of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Examining the way science and scientists have been portrayed in stage plays has much to tell us about the history of public engagement with the sciences, the developing role of the scientist in society and the cultural effects of advancements in science and technology.

One of the most popular characterisations of a practitioner of science that appeared on the stage around the turn of the twentieth century was the character of Dr Jekyll. Stevenson’s novella was published in 1886 and, within a year, Thomas Russell Sullivan’s stage adaptation Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opened in New York.  In 1888, Daniel E Banmann’s competing adaptation opened in the US and both versions saw their UK premières. Numerous other adaptations followed, including J Comyns Carr’s 1910 production at Queen’s Theatre in London.

Attempts to translate the novella to the stage resulted in theatrical productions that depart quite radically from the original text in several ways, including the manner in which Dr Jekyll is represented – or reinvented. In this paper, I am interested in exploring how the three adaptations mentioned above engage with Dr Jekyll and his work, and how his role as a practitioner of medicine and science was revised and reinterpreted for the turn-of-the-century stage.

Categorized as Abstracts

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